Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Book Notes: Alfred Street by Russell McLauchlin (and now, an index!)

Alfred Street (Burton Historical Collection)

The other day I was talking with a cousin about someone in our family tree who lived on Arndt Street in Detroit. I thought I'd read a book about life on Arndt Street, but when I tried to look it up, I couldn't find it. Thinking it might have been another street, I looked at a map and realized, yes, it was Alfred Street, not Arndt. I'd enjoyed the book, so yesterday I walked my dog to the library to check it out again.

The author, Russell McLauchlin, was a music and drama critic for The Detroit News, and many of the essays in the book originally appeared in the Town Talk column therein. His career spanned more than three decades in the first half of the twentieth century.

Born in Detroit in 1894, McLauchlin wrote these essays about the community where he spent his childhood in the very early 1900s. My grandma Evelyn Hauer was also born in Detroit in 1894, so for me, McLauchlin's stories provide a sense of what life would have been like when she was a kid. Also, Alfred Street is pleasantly inspirational for any reader who aspires to write up some of his own childhood memories.

Written in 1946, the Preface of Alfred Street begins with this disorienting description:
     Alfred Street still exists. It runs at right angles to Woodward Avenue, less than a mile from the center of Detroit, just as it always did. It is now in what city-planners call a blighted area. The elms were long ago torn down. No representative of the old neighbor-families remains. The houses, mostly standing as they stood a half-century ago, are dismal structures. Some have night-blooming grocery stores in their front yards. Some have boarded windows. All stand in bitter need of paint and repair.
     It is a desolate street; a scene of poverty and chop-fallen gloom; possibly of worse things.
Wait a sec... when was that written? Sixty-eight years ago? Seriously? Well, here's the current state of things on the McLauchlin boy's block of Alfred Street:

View Larger Map

Only four of the twelve houses remain standing. In the foreground is 63 Alfred (point A), home of Alanson & Cornelia Fox and Cornelia's sister Mary Stebbins. Next was 69 Alfred (Ransom Gillis), 77 (McLauchlin family and Mary Doyle), 81 (Thomas McGraw), 83 (McFarland), 85 (Prosser), 91 (Machen, Burn, and boarders--the boxy house still standing), 97 (Zengerle), 99 (Abrey), 105 (Lhommedien--still standing), 113 (Vail--still standing), and 115 (Ling). [Names taken from the 1900 census.] All houses on the even-numbered side of Alfred Street are gone now. 

Update: The image above is supposed to be a street-view of the McLauchlin family's block of Alfred Street, not a map. If it's showing up as a map for you, you'll have to click through for the street view. And in a bizarre coincidence, I've just gotten a link in my Facebook feed to this article about the filming of Batman v. Superman on Alfred Street--in fact, in the same house shown above! Speaking of which, this house is referred to as the Ransom Gillis house, not the Alanson Fox house. I believe that's because Ransom Gillis lived here first. The house at 63 Alfred was built in 1876-1878 according to the Deadline Detroit article, and Ransom Gillis was enumerated at that address in the 1880 census (at which time, it appears, the house at 69 Alfred had not been built yet).

Maurice Greenia, Jr. has written a perfectly good post about Alfred Street in Detroit and has included links to some other interesting related items, so I see no need to reinvent that wheel. But as far as I know, the book Alfred Street has not been name-indexed. So, to help Google-searchers find the references to Detroiters mentioned in McLauchlin's stories, here ya go:

Index of People Mentioned in Alfred Street by Russell McLauchlin

Allen, Sylvia and Julia - 95

Barclay, Miss (taught First Presbyterian Sunday school primary class) - 74-76
Blessed, John (grocer) - 59
Brenton, Dr. (veterinarian) - 82
Brudel, George - 29-30
Burke, Maggie - 33

Dixon, Percy - 62-63
Doyle, Mary (77 Alfred Street, with the McLauchlin family) - 45-47, 89

Foster, Frank (milkman) - 59
Fox, Alanson & Cornelia - 95 (not mentioned by name, sister & brother-in-law of Mary Stebbins, 63 Alfred Street)
Freer, Charles L. - 49-50

Goebbels, Dr. - 43

Hanley, Mr. - 82
Hastrup, Frank (38 Frank Street) - 23
Hawkins, Rebecca (nurse) - 85-86
Henning, Miss (possibly Marie, a teacher per 1900 census) - 44

Imrie, Dr. (Andrew W., per 1900 census) - 59, 84-85
Imrie, Walter - 85

Jennings, Dr. (pastor, First Presbyterian) - 36, 76

----, Minnie (possibly Kief, per 1900 census, 76 Alfred Street) - 68

Lyons, Mrs. (First Presbyterian organist) - 74-76

Marshall, Ethel - 61-63
McGraw, Tom and Minnie (Maria L. in census, 81 Alfred Street) - 33-35
McGregor, Mr. (superintendent of First Presbyterian Sunday school) - 74-76
McHenry, James Galbraith - 85
McLauchlin, Hannah (nee McDonald, 77 Alfred Street) - 36-38
McLauchlin, Isabella Flora (77 Alfred Street) - 95-97
Morris, Emily (66 Alfred Street) - 83
Morris, Frederick Lambert (66 Alfred Street) - Preface, 24, 30, 54, 95
Morris, Marion (female) (66 Alfred Street) - 66
Muir, (James & Isabel per 1900 census, 76 Alfred Street) - 67-68

Robinson, Cass (First Presbyterian Sunday school teacher) - 75-76

Schwartz, Miss (German teacher) - 61-63
Scott, Jim (he of the Belle Isle fountain) - 64-65
Skinner, Jack - 62
Slater, Dick - 53-54
Standish family (James, Jennie, Jane and James per 1900/1910 census, 74 Alfred Street) - 65
Stark, George W. - Foreword, Preface
Stebbins, Mary - 95

Taylor, Elisha - 31-33
Templeton, Miss (probably Kathrine, dry goods merchant per 1900 census, 777 Woodward) - 39-40

Van Horn, Miss (probably Hattie, dressmaker on High Street off Woodward per 1900 census) - 40-41

Walker, Mr., of Walker's Drug Store - 85-86
Watt, Mr. & Mrs. (possibly Henry & Martha, who owned a candy & cigar store at 731 Woodward,
          a few doors from Kathrine Templeton's dry goods store, per 1900 census) - 52-53
White (possibly Albert & Nellie at 61 Alfred Street--only their barn is mentioned) - 23
Wood, D. (David?) - 27

Crazy Mary, an ancient Negro laundress - 26
Pee-Wee Ben, an elderly imbecile, short, bearded, and lame - 27-28
Forsyth's grocery store - 43
Clark, Mrs. (there were several, all laundresses) - 87-89
Singer, Mrs. Fred (laundress) - 87-89

actors/performers mentioned on pp. 90-94:
William Gillette, Herbert Kelcey, Thomas E. Shea, Hanlon, Harry Kellar (magic), Mantell, David Higgins

McLauchlin, Russell Jachne. Alfred Street. Detroit: Conjure House, 1946. 


The McLauchlin family in the 1900 census

1897 Sanborn map of Alfred Street ~ In this block, 
only 63, 91, 105 and 113 were still standing when Google made their 2013 street view images.


Diane Hall said...

What a great post. Myself and my parents, siblings, grandparents and many cousins are all from Detroit. Most are of Scottish ancestry. I was sure hoping to see some of their names in the index. But, none of them are there.
I enjoy reading your posts.

TK said...

Thanks, Diane. Even if your family members aren't mentioned, if any of them lived in that area you'd probably still enjoy reading the book for its little nuggets about life around there as seen through the eyes of a kid. At 102 pages, it could probably be read in a couple hours (if you're not stopping to index everybody!).

Nancy said...

I don't have any ties to Arnold Street or anyone who lived there but I just wanted to comment on what a great post this is!

TK said...

Thanks, Nancy, this was a fun read and a fun little project to do!

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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